Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
What Makes it Great
Before you roll your eyes and say, “Oh wow, old wood,” take a look at these colorful specimens and note at what time, over millions of years, has done to these fossilized trees. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything else quite as multi-colored in Southern Utah.
The most-hiked trail in the park is the Petrified Forest Trail. This one-mile loop winds through lava flows and a juniper forest. Use the hiking guide you pick up at the trailhead to learn about points of interest along the trail and note spots with petrified wood. That said, there are thousands of specimens of the colorful logs to check out.
An optional add-on — one that is totally worth your time — is the Sleeping Rainbows Trail. This .75-mile loop is much steeper than the other trails, where you traverse into one canyon and then up another, and requires moderate scrambling and climbing over rocks. This section has the most dense concentration of petrified wood in the park. Along the trail, named after the native Fremont Indian description of this region, you’ll see logs up to 15 feet long — be sure to add it to your list.
In addition to the petrified wood and fun trails, the fishing in Wide Hollow Reservoir, which is fully stocked with rainbow trout and bluegill, is excellent, and the boating and kayaking is serene.
What You’ll Remember
The kaleidoscopic colors of wood reclaimed from the Earth; being in awe at the power of nature and the ancient remnants of time past; the expansive vistas of the reservoir and surrounding mountains from the top of the hiking loop; the cool, refreshing waters of the lake.
There's a good reason why the setting here is so spectacular. The state park and nearby town of Escalante stand watch over the nearby Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, which is more than 1.8 million acres of outdoor adventure spread across slot canyons, slickrock and other geologic wonders. There's a visitor center at Escalante to help you find the perfect areas for hiking, mountain biking, off-roading and camping and other outdoor attraction options, which makes the campsite at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park an excellent base camp. It's a short drive to Calf Creek Falls, which is a developed interpretive trail in the Escalante Canyons section of the nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante.